The Loneliness Of Old London
Lost in Old London – Rose Alley, Southwark, c. 1910
When I first came to live in London, I had few friends, no job and little money, but I managed to rent a basement room in Portobello. For a year, I wandered the city on foot, exploring London without any bus fare. I think I never felt so alone as when I drifted aimlessly in the freezing fog in Hyde Park in 1983. As I walked, I used to puzzle how I could ever find my life in London. Then I went back and sat in my tiny room for countless hours and struggled to write, without success.
Today, I am often haunted by the spectre of my pitiful former self as I travel around London and, while examining the thousands of glass slides created by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for educational lectures at the Bishopsgate Institute a century ago, I am struck by the lone figures isolated in the cityscape. The photographers may have included these solitary people to give a sense of human scale – but my response to these pictures is emotional, I cannot resist seeing them as a catalogue of the loneliness of old London.
In celebration of the publication of The Gentle Author’s London Album I am undertaking a peregrination around London performing my magic lantern show at diverse venues. This week’s stop is at Waterstones Bookshop in Covent Garden and I look forward to seeing you there on Thursday night.
THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S MAGIC LANTERN SHOW
Thursday 21st November 6:00pm at Waterstones, Garrick St, Covent Garden, WC2
I will be showing 100 pictures – including selected glass slides from a century ago, telling the stories and counterpointing them with favourite photographs of the unexpected wonders of London today.
Alone outside Shepherd’s Bush Empire, c. 1920
Alone at the Chelsea Hospital, c. 1910
Alone in Hyde Park, c. 1910
Alone on Hampstead Heath, c. 1910
Alone in Thames St, 1920
Alone at the Orangery, Kensington Palace, c. 1910
Alone at the Albert Hall, c. 1910
Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute
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